New Delhi: Expressing their anger and dismay at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report on Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, civil society activists and people displaced by the Muzaffarnagar riots demanded that the “partisan and prejudiced” report be recalled.
On September 21, the NHRC released the findings of their investigations in Kairana. The investigation was conducted based on a complaint on the alleged “exodus” of Hindu families from the town because of increasing crime. The NHRC report has claimed that the allegations are “serious” and that several Hindu families “migrated” from Kairana because of the “increase in crime” and “deterioration” of the law-and-order situation after victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots settled there.
The issue was first brought up by BJP MP Hukum Singh, who said 346 Hindu families had left because of people from “one particular community”. This claim was denied by the state government and the list of families provided by him was found by several media investigations to be false .
Activist Farah Naqvi, who has been working with people displaced by the Muzaffarnagar riots since 2013, said at a press conference organised in Delhi that the report was nothing more that “communal rumour-mongering”.
The report said that “at least 24 witnesses stated that the youths of the specific majority community (Muslims) in Kairana town pass lewd/taunting remarks against the females of the specific minority community in Kairana town. Due to this, females of the specific minority community (Hindus) in Kairana town avoid going outside frequently. However, they could not gather courage to report the matter to the police for the legal action. ”
It adds: “In 2013, the post-rehabilitation scenario resulting in resettlement of about 25/30 thousand members of Muslims Community in Kairana Town from district Muzaffarnagar, UP, the demography of Kairana town has changed in favour of the Muslim Community becoming the more dominating and majority community. Most of the witnesses examined and victims feel that the rehabilitation in 2013 has permanently changed the social situation in Kairana town and has led to further deterioration of law and order situation.”
Watch: Kairana, After the Headlines
“This report has provided no evidence for its claims at all,” Naqvi said. “While a declining law and order is a problem for all of us, how can they communalise criminality and blame it on a particular religion? This is not what we expect from our national human rights body. There are no facts, only ‘feelings’ they have gathered from a few people.”
“And who did they speak to?” she asked. “They did not approach any of the displaced persons and speak to them. Who are these 24 witnesses?”
Two riot victims who are now settled in Kairana, brothers Shaukat Ali and Rayeez Ali, also addressed the press conference. “Our village is two km from Shamli town. During the riots, we didn’t want to leave our home. But the mob entered our house and stabbed our father. He died. We were also badly beaten, but we managed to run away with our family,” Shaukat said.
“Two days later, after we had left the village, we were told that our father’s body has emerged in a pond. We went to the police in Shamli town, they said they didn’t have time that day. The next day when they finally went, the body had been removed,” he added.
“We spent two years in a relief camp,” Rayeez said. “And are now rebuilding our life in Kairana. That is our home now. Par kuch log badnam kar rahe hain (But some people are giving us a bad name). If there is really so much ‘crime’, where are the FIRs? We have been through all this and the NHRC has not been to see us once. Now they have come out with this report, it is very disappointing.”
“If you speak only to certain groups in a communally-charged area, they are bound to say things against another community,” activist Harsh Mander of Aman Biradri and the Centre for Equity Studies said. “What the NHRC should have done is provide facts – police cases, FIRs.”
Akram Chaudhury, an activist with Afkar India in Shamli who lives in Kairana, did some digging on the NHRC’s facts. The NHRC report has claimed that 25,000-30,000 Muslims have moved to Kairana town after the Muzaffarnagar riots. Chaudhury, after conducting a door-to-door survey in resettlement areas both last year and again after the NHRC numbers were announced, said it is not more than 2,000 people.
He has filed a complaint with the NHRC, asking that they recall the prejudiced report and issue a public statement about it.
“The number they have given, 25,000-30,000, is the total of displaced people there were in all camps after the riots. They definitely didn’t all go to Kairana, they are scattered across UP. Where did the NHRC get this number?” Mander said.
“And even if they were all there,” Naqvi added, “which is not the case, why would that be a problem? They are citizens of India who were displaced from there homes. Where should they go?”
The activists also raised questions on the changes in the NHRC and the loss of an institution.”The NHRC is the highest statutory body on human rights in the country,” said Madhavi Kuckreja of Sadbhavna Trust, an NGO working in UP. “Where do we take our concerns now? Which body will deal with the human rights insecurities that exist?”
“The NHRC used to be a trusted organisation that did excellent work,” Mander said, referring to the body’s efforts after the 2002 Gujarat riots. “But in the last few years they have been passive and quiet – and now they are speaking on the other side!”
Captain Praveen Davar, member of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), came to the event in his personal capacity. After hearing what the activists and riot victims had to say, he said that he would bring the matter up with the commission. He also asked the activists to file a formal complaint with the NCM.